Rip Thomas is the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion, and his appearances on network television have been a thorn in the side of Brell, the head of the struggling World Television Network. The day after Rip's most recent title match, Brell attempts to bribe the champion into joining his network, but Rip declines the offer. After Rip disposes of Brell's thugs on his way home, Brell visits the No Count Bar, where he comes up with his own wrestling program called Battle of the Tough Guys. The show is successful due to the introduction of Zeus, an ex-convict and former protege of Rip's trainer Charlie. Zeus wins the $100,000 tournament and becomes Brell's prized fighter.
Samantha, a beautiful corporate spy, is sent by Brell to seduce Rip. However, Rip's good nature and dedication to charity wins her over, and she confesses her identity to the wrestler and turns to his side. After this fails, Brell attempts to have Samantha raped; Rip foils the plot and dispatches the would-be rapist into a tree trunk. Meanwhile, Brell and Zeus crash an outdoor charity event Rip is appearing at, demanding that Rip prove his honor by fighting Zeus live on Brell's new show. Once again, Rip avoids violent conflict, not wanting to set a bad example for the children present and attempts to reason with Brell, who leaves in anger. Rip's younger brother Randy and his friend, Craig, decide to check out Zeus for themselves, attending an illegal fight being held in a warehouse. After watching Zeus defeat the monstrous Rebar Lawless, Craig foolishly identifies Randy as Rip's brother to Brell and his associates. Randy attempts to defend himself, but Zeus brutally beats him, sending him to the hospital. Enraged, Rip accepts Zeus' challenge to avenge his brother.
On the night of the match, Brell has Samantha kidnapped and orders Rip to go ten minutes through the fight then lose the fight to save her life. As the battle begins, Samantha manages to escape, but just as Brell's goons corner her, Charlie rescues her by knocking them out with a fire extinguisher. Zeus has the upper hand at the start of the fight, ruthlessly pummeling Rip, even trying to kill him by ripping out one of the steel posts and trying to run Rip through. Randy cheers to urge his brother to fight back. Rip is re-energized by Randy's words and once he sees Samantha is safe, gains a second wind and starts to turn the tides on Zeus. The fight destroys the ring, with Rip and Zeus continuing the battle up the through the stands as a disbelieving Brell watches from the control room. Rip finally puts an end to the match by knocking Zeus off a catwalk, which causes him to fall through the ring and lose. A frustrated Brell begins destroying electrical equipment, in total disbelief over Zeus' loss. Rip angrily goes after Brell intending to repay him for his misdeeds. In fear, Brell retreats, but accidentally touches live wires he has exposed in his tirade and dies from being electrocuted. With his enemies now vanquished, Rip celebrates his victory with Randy and his friends.Hulk Hogan as Rip Thomas
Joan Severance as Samantha Moore
Kurt Fuller as Brell
Tiny Lister as Zeus
Mark Pellegrino as Randy Thomas
Bill Henderson as Charlie
Charles Levin as Ordway
David Paymer as Unger
Patrick O'Bryan as Craig
Jeep Swenson as Lugwrench Perkins
Bill Eadie as Jake Bullet
Stan Hansen as Neanderthal
Rebecca Wackler as Ms. Tidings
Bruce Taylor as Mr. Johnson
Gene Okerlund as Himself
Jesse Ventura as Himself
Howard Finkel as Himself
Joey Marella as Himself
The movie debuted at #2, behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with $4,957,052 in ticket sales. Hogan writes in his autobiography the budget was about eight million dollars. Vince McMahon, who financed the movie, more or less broke even because of distribution fees. The final tally was $16,093,651 in ticket sales.
During the October 13, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw, Vince McMahon joked, "Hogan promised me that if the movie lost money he was gonna return his salary. I guess the check is still in the mail." This was during the Monday Night Wars and was part of a number of digs at Hogan's then-new movie project Assault on Devil's Island. Raw commentator Jim Ross also joked during the late 90s; "No Holds Barred? More like No Profit Allowed."
The film was widely panned by critics, with a 11% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews . Film critic Brian Orndorf described the film as "tremendously crude, unapologetically manipulative, and aimed directly at easily entertained 13-year-old boys."
The film was released on VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc in October 1989. It was released on DVD for the first time ever with a digitally remastered transfer by WWE Home Video under the WWE Studios banner on July 3, 2012. A Blu-ray Disc release followed in April 2014.
No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie, as the event was billed, was shown on pay-per-view on December 27, 1989. The program consisted of the film in its entirety, followed by a match previously recorded at a Wrestling Challenge taping on December 12 in Nashville, Tennessee. It is currently one of the few WWE pay-per-views not yet available on the WWE Network.
The main event pitted Hogan and Lister — appearing in character as "Zeus" — on opposing tag teams. Hogan teamed with longtime friend Brutus Beefcake, while the heel Zeus teamed with Randy Savage. The four had been involved in an intertwined feud since the summer. Zeus had made several appearances at WWF events and cut promos stating that he, and not Hogan, should have received top billing in No Holds Barred. Meanwhile, as Hogan and Savage were feuding over the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, Beefcake began feuding with Savage after Beefcake insulted Savage's manager Sensational Sherri during a TV taping. At the 1989 SummerSlam, Hogan and Beefcake teamed to defeat Savage and Zeus, after which the tag team feud simmered for several months as Zeus began appearing with Ted DiBiase in the lead-up to the 1989 Survivor Series.
The Hogan-Beefcake vs. Savage-Zeus tag team rivalry resumed after the Survivor Series, in the lead-up to "No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie."
The Hogan-Beefcake vs. Savage-Zeus steel-cage match was part of a WWF Wrestling Challenge taping. In addition to matches pitting mid- and lower-card wrestlers against jobbers, other contests (which were not televised) saw "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes defeat Big Boss Man, WWF Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior defeat Dino Bravo, The Colossal Connection (André the Giant and Haku) defeat WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition by countout, and Curt Hennig defeat Ron Garvin.
Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake defeated Randy Savage and Zeus in the 09:27-long steel-cage match. The match could be won either by pinfall/submission or by having both members of a team escape the cage.
After a back-and-forth match early on, all four competitors were knocked out after Hogan hit a suplex on Zeus, and Beefcake and Savage hit each other's heads into the cage structure. Sensational Sherri (the manager of the Savage-Zeus team) handed a chain to Savage, who attempted to strike Beefcake with a fist drop off the top of the cage, but Beefcake recovered and caught Savage coming off. Eventually, Beefcake knocked Savage to the mat and escaped the cage; Savage—with some eventual help from Beefcake—crawled outside, tying the match at 1-apiece.
Meanwhile, Hogan rallied against Zeus, battering him before dropping three leg drops to score the pin and the win for the Hogan-Beefcake team.
This was Zeus' last match in the WWF, as Lister left shortly afterward; meanwhile, Savage continued to target Hogan over the WWF Championship.
Among the dark matches, the Demolition-Colossal Connection match was contested one day prior to the match where the Colossal Connection won the WWF Tag Team Championship, while Dino Bravo continued to be the Ultimate Warrior's top foe for the Intercontinental Championship.